Thursday, June 16, 2011

Elegy Beach by Steven R. Boyett

Elegy BeachIf you've been wondering for the last thirty years whatever happened to Pete and Ariel, from Boyett's novel of The Change, then this is your opportunity to find out, in a story set thirty years later in that world. The novel takes place for the most part near Del Mar, California, from the viewpoint of Pete's son, Fred. Yes, Pete named his son after his sword; something Freudian there, perhaps.

Fred is apprenticed to the resident spell caster in town, nicknamed Pay Pay, and is chafing a bit at the pace that he's being taught. He and his friend, Yan, have begun experimenting with spell casting, working from some "libbed" grimoires. There's a type of spell called a stasis spell, that turns objects into shimmering silver statues, basically, and which is impervious to all forces. No one has ever figured out how to remove a stasis spell, but it's theorized that time doesn't pass inside of the spell, so there would probably be all kinds of nifty uses for a counterspell, especially in a world without refrigeration.

One of the things that Boyett gets into a bit more in this novel is the idea that some of the old laws of physics still seem to work, while others don't, though the characters never exactly figure out why one thing is allowed and not another. Simple pumps still work, while gears will not (I think Boyett violates this in one scene where they jump into a car on a grade and use it to coast downhill faster than their enemies can run - the steering still works - aren't there gears in a steering box?). Not quite sure why crossbows still work, if they have to be cranked to cock. Some minor inconsistencies here and there, but it doesn't really distract from the story.

Fred and Yan eventually come up with a way to create a stasis spell with a flaw in it that will allow it to be removed at a later time. They take some of these pre-packaged spells to a local flea market to drum up business. The great thing about these spells is that anyone can use them, if they have the unlocking words. Yan's experiments finally get out of hand when he takes revenge on Pay Pay after he figures out the password to some of his and Fred's new toys, and Yan burns down his shop in retaliation. Fred confronts him and tells him he must leave town before Fred has to tell his father and the rest of the town who is responsible for the fire.

Yan leaves, but continues to work with magic, finally discovering a way that he thinks he can reverse The Change. No one, least of all the magical creatures, thinks this is a good idea. Around this time, Ariel shows up, and the big reveal, which we readers probably already have figured out is that Fred's dad is Pete from the earlier book. Yan has killed Ariel's companion, another unicorn, and stolen his horn. Unicorn horns are objects of great power, and it's part of the spell he is building that will destroy the world as we know it now.

And so the quest begins, not so much different from the quest in Ariel. Pete, Fred, Ariel and Yan's father decide they have to stop the rogue magician before he can complete his evil plot. They set out on a long journey to the villain's lair, with plenty of magic and mayhem along the way.

Nice to finally wrap the story up, after all these years.


DiploMad said...

I love your blog. Very original. I read it every day. You have me reading SciFi and Fantasy again.

Just wrote a story of my own over at The Diplomad, you might enjoy it.

Jon said...

Thank you for your kind words. I was very happy when you returned to blogging. Loved the story yesterday. Tried to leave a comment, but it disappeared into the ether.